by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Feb 7, 2017
Moldova's pro-Russian President Igor Dodon on Tuesday warned NATO that the closer ties it seeks with his strategically placed country could undermine its neutrality and threaten its security.
Dodon, who went to Moscow on his first foreign visit after the election late last year, has repeatedly said he wants to restore political and economic relations with Moldova's Soviet-era master, reversing the closer NATO and European Union links championed by his predecessors.
Speaking after talks with NATO deputy head Rose Gottermoeller, he insisted that a planned alliance liaison office in the capital Chisinau would be of no benefit to the majority of Moldovans.
"For me, the opening of such an office is not helpful for the security of the people; it is a provocation set up by the previous government," he told reporters standing alongside Gottermoeller at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Gottermoeller stressed that the liaison office was similar to those set up in other countries, such as Russia or Ukraine, and was staffed only by civilian, not military personnel.
"It will increase transparency about what NATO does with Moldova," she said, describing the talks with Dodon as "intensive positive discussions."
The US-led alliance fully understood Moldova's desire for neutrality and respected all nations' right to decide their own security arrangements, she said.
"Moldova does not want to join NATO," she noted, but added that neutrality did not mean isolation and the two parties had worked together in the past and she hoped would do so in the future.
Tiny Moldova is wedged between Ukraine and Romania and has an East-West cultural and linguistic split, similar to Ukraine's.
A brief civil war in the 1990s ended with the Russian-speaking Transdniestr region breaking away and declaring independence, backed by Moscow, which now stations troops there.
Asked about the continued presence of Russian soldiers, Dodon said that issue would be resolved at the same time as the conflict in Transdniestr.
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